Interview with Dinah Smith


Interview with Dinah Smith


Dinah Smith was born in Bamford, Derbyshire in 1937, moving to Darley Dale when her father found a new job as an aqueduct linesman. Dinah outlines her experiences of school, friends, foraging for food, and celebrations during the war. She also mentions how the end of the war-affected her village with the returning of the men and post-war rural England.
Two experiences of wartime Britain stood out to Dinah, one of these was the sudden appearance of aircraft over her home around 1943, when the nearby reservoir of Errwood was for low-level flying practice. The second experience was with German prisoners of war that worked with her father. She she was given handcrafted wooden toys by the men, which she presumes happened because they missed their families and because her parents were kind to them.




Temporal Coverage





00:52:23 audio recording


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ASmithD180420, PSmithD1801


PL: Hello. I’m Pam Locker and I’m in the home of Mrs Dinah Smith [buzz] [Yeadon] and I’d just like to say Dinah thank you very much indeed on behalf of the International Bomber Command Archive for agreeing to tell us your story today. And I guess I’d like to start by just saying would you like to just tell us a little bit about your background and where you lived as a child?
DS: Yes. Well, I’m Dinah Smith but I was born Dinah Crooks in Bamford, in the Peak District in Derbyshire near the Ladybower and Derwent Dams. I was born in 1937 and my father, he had been employed by Baileys in the construction of the Ladybower Reservoir, but then he got a job with the Derwent Valley Water Board and so we were moved in 1939 down to Darley Dale which is down the Derwent Valley. So of course I spent my childhood and the wartime years in Darley Dale. It’s, it’s a beautiful area. Quite rural except we had the main London to Manchester railway line running through the valley and later on in the war we got a steel stamping works. So we had the noise of the railways and the two hammers at the stamping works but we never heard aeroplanes. Planes didn’t seem to come our way at all. Our nearest city was Sheffield and of course that was very badly blitzed during the war. But apart from that we, we just didn’t hear planes and then suddenly planes seemed to be coming down. Mostly at night. And, and so this was an unusual noise. Being a small child it was quite scary. I think it was, it was scary in that at school, I think it was at school we were issued with a little booklet that showed silhouettes of enemy and British aircraft. And of course during the war everybody was involved with the war effort. From the youngest to the oldest, we all had to play our part and I thought about it since because if we had spotted an enemy aircraft what we would have done? Because nobody had a phone and we hadn’t a local police station or anything like that so goodness knows what we would have done if we’d spotted enemy aircraft. So of course when we started hearing these, these, these planes it was frightening. And of course folk talked about it and you know saying it’s waking the children up and frightening the animals and that sort of thing and of course it wasn’t until afterwards when they’d successfully breached the German dams that we found out why these planes were coming down. Because they were practising low level flying over Derwent Dam and then continuing on down the valley and that’s what it was all about. And then of course we were very proud of the fact that [laughs] they’d chosen our valley to, to practice in. But yes. It was. It was quite scary at the time for a, for a small child. I suppose for the adults as well, because they wouldn’t know. Everything was kept very secret. We were only told what we were supposed to hear. And of course there wasn’t television and modern media. So —
PL: So how old were you?
DS: Well, I was born in ‘37 so I was two when the war started and I’d be eight when it finished. So I suppose in 1943 I was, I was six wasn’t I, in 1943? So it would be scary wouldn’t it for a for a small child? These big planes. Big noisy planes. Mostly as I say at night.
[cuckoo clock in the background]
PL: Thank you for that. We also have several clocks who are going to take part in our interview today.
DS: Yeah. I do apologise.
PL: Not to worry. So, so tell me a little bit about your other experiences during the war. So this is obviously the key thing. The memory of this scary, scary, can you remember thinking what the noise might have been?
DS: Well, I suppose because we did go into Sheffield and we would, you know we would see all these bombed areas. I can remember going once and, and my dad pointing out a huge heap of rubble at one point saying x number of, ‘People are buried under that rubble. They’ve not been able to dig them out.’ And of course over Sheffield there were barrage balloons, so you know we were just accustomed to that. But I suppose we, we thought the planes were something to do with looking after Sheffield. Because of course, you know being the steel industry it was, it was a prime target. Another time, we lived not far from Chatsworth House and as I said my father worked for the Water Board and he was, his official title was an aqueduct linesman which actually meant he had to check on a length of pipe, pipeline. And it started at Baslow and came through to Darley Dale where we lived. So every Monday he, he walked his length is what he described it, and he had to check in in some of the buildings that the water pressure and so forth. And it actually ran through Chatsworth Park and when I was off school I would, I would walk. Do the walk with him, because if you lived in Derbyshire everybody walked because it’s such a beautiful place to walk in. And I always felt so important because we would approach the ornamental gates for Chatsworth Park that that the general public even now don’t use, and the gate keeper would run out and open these gates for me and my dad. You know, my dad in his overalls and his hobnail boots to walk through and I felt so important [laughs] But my dad again pointed out on the belvedere, at the end of Chatsworth House he pointed out some marks in the walls and he said they were shot, they were machine gun bullets. That a plane, a German plane had come down, continued on from Sheffield and come down the valley and fired apparently at some people who were playing cricket. Again on the cricket field in the park and fired at Chatsworth House. And those bullet marks were still there until a recent refurbishment and they enquired about it and they said it depends on the state of the stone and if it’s too badly damaged they will have to remove it. And I haven’t seen. I haven’t been back so I don’t know if those marks are still there but certainly whenever I visited Chatsworth I always used to look and point out to friends, you know these machine gun marks.
PL: So, did you, at school did you talk a lot about the war? Did you did you sort of feel frightened or were you excited or —
DS: We didn’t know anything different because that’s —
PL: What you know
DS: You know we were just growing up with it. And as I say everybody had to do their bit. We had to, we collected, picked, rosehips. We had to pick those. Well, didn’t have to but we did and take them to the local chemist shop and they weighed them and I think, I think we got a bit of money for them. But that was to, for rosehip syrup for the babies, you know to ensure that the babies got their vitamins. And we also had I think it was late September, beginning of October potato picking holiday. And we were loaded up on to the back of a lorry. I mean it wouldn’t get past health and safety now. We just loaded up into this lorry and taken off. Where we were it was just by Chatsworth Park, into a field. We followed a man with a fork digging out the potatoes. And you know we picked the potatoes up and put them into boxes and buckets.
PL: So how old were you then?
DS: And that’s what we called potato picking holiday. And of course any paper or card which, we hadn’t really got any at school. We’d very very few materials at school or equipment. Everything had to be taken for salvage. You know, we all, everybody was excepted to do something about it. And my dad, as I said worked for the water board and his, his yard, his base was on my way to school. So me and my friend Betty, if we were in good time because we always dawdled and we played marbles along the side of the road to school and that sort of thing. But if we were in good time we would pop in and see my dad. And for a while he had German prisoners of war working with them. And they, they arrived each morning again on the back of a lorry. Worked with my dad. But of course they made a big fuss of, of me and Betty because, well they’d be family men wouldn’t they? And they would have left their children behind. And, and in fact, well, mum, mum was a very good lady, a Christian and although we were on rations and you couldn’t get dried fruit and that sort of thing my mum would, would quite often send cake and it was a case of find the current or find the sultana you know with wartime cake. But they, they you know were on very meagre rations and didn’t get anything extra. And so of course they, they made a big fuss of me and Betty and actually made us, whittled us toys, because again during the war everything went into the war effort and they weren’t making toys and they made me some beautiful toys out of presumably orange boxes and that sort of thing. In fact, I’ve still got two. Well, I’ve got one. That’s a chess piece.
PL: Do you want me to get it?
DS: Yes.
PL: So, Dinah, explain to me what this is that you’re showing us.
DS: I think it’s a chess piece. It looks like the bishop.
PL: And it’s a beautifully carved piece.
DS: Yes. Yes.
PL: That’s probably about a hundred mil high and it’s so detailed.
DS: Yes. Look at the face and whatever. Is that? That’s a cross isn’t it? It’s a — I’ve got another piece upstairs. Shall I fetch it for you?
PL: So, what else did they make for you?
DS: Well, they made, I wish I’d kept them but you see when you’d played with them for a while because other children hadn’t, hadn’t got toys you passed them on. And that’s what I did, apart from one which was the pecking hens. And I’ve still, I’ve still kept that. But they were one, one was a piece. It was sort of a frame like that, double it’s a bit like parallel bars in it for gymnastics.
PL: Right.
DS: And with a, with a clown.
PL: Right.
DS: And you put him on that and it —
PL: He tumbled across.
DS: Went back like that.
PL: Right.
DS: And then the next thing you know the two sticks with a clown in between and you pressed the sticks.
PL: Yes.
DS: They made me those. And sort of little bits of dolls house furniture. Tables and chairs. And, and bats. You know, cricket. Not cricket bats. A round bat to play rounders with or something like that. But, and, and I think that was A, because they missed their children and B because, you know my mum. My mum obviously was, you know they appreciated mum because although they were the enemy, they appreciated what mum did for them. And I mean my dad had fought in the First World War. You know. So he’d, he’d fought against the Germans at one time but again my dad was a lovely man and would treat them just like, you know, like himself I suppose because it could have happened to him couldn’t it in the First World War?
PL: So where was the prisoner of war camp?
DS: I don’t know. I think it was Baslow way. Beyond, I think beyond Chatsworth but I’m not really sure. I ought to try and find out hadn’t I?
PL: How extraordinary though. So —
DS: Yeah.
PL: So you’d have these two men who were helping your dad.
DS: No. A lorry load of them.
PL: Oh, a lorry load of them.
DS: A lorry load, Yeah. Several of them. Yeah.
PL: So it must have been very strange as a child to have this notion of the enemy, and —
DS: I think. Yeah. Yeah. They weren’t, they were just nice men. You know. As I say they were kind to us and, yeah. And they were just people who worked with my dad.
PL: So do you know what they did with him?
DS: No, but no. Now, you start, started me to think. Perhaps they were airmen. Do you think? They might have been airmen because why else would they be? I’ve never really, do you know I’ve never thought about that. Why were they there? And of course everybody who would know has gone now. This is the time when you think I wish I’d got my mum and dad back and then I could ask them all these, all these things. Don’t you? And, you know.
PL: So, talking about food tell us a little bit about what it was like.
DS: Food.
PL: On rations. What would a typical day be?
DS: Oh, my goodness. Well, the bread was a very grey colour. I can remember the first time I saw a white loaf. I couldn’t believe it because it was sort of a very grey. I think. And of course we foraged. Living in the country, we picked everything. There was nothing left on, on trees and bushes. We picked bilberries, blackberries, raspberries. Well, as kids we used to pinch apples off people’s trees. In Derbyshire most people, although we hadn’t, we had a big garden. It went three sides of the house and we were self-sufficient in vegetables throughout the year, and we were next to the farm field and the farmer grew turnips. So he gave us permission just to go over and pick a turnip if we wanted it. But we, we went nutting. That was, we knew where were the best trees were in Chatsworth Park and you, we knew, we knew all the ways over the wall in to Chatsworth Park. So we picked chestnuts and beech nuts and hazelnuts. We knew where to find watercress. And I would say most people in Derbyshire had a damson tree. And mum, come the Autumn I mean mum would spend hours and hours bottling. Sunday tea was bottled damsons with the top of the milk because the milkman came around with a churn and ladled out the milk into our jugs and, and it was full cream milk so of course you had, we called it the top of the milk. The cream.
PL: So did that happen every day? He would come with the milk and do that.
DS: Yes. Yes.
PL: So you had a jug of milk each day.
DS: Yes. Yes. Mum had in the kitchen in fact I’ve still got one, a set of three jugs, and they had different measures in. They were gil measures, hung on the side of the churn and you know you’d put so much into the different jugs. You had to have your jug ready. And then you had a sort of a lace cover to keep the flies off. You know. With beads around the edge [laughs] oh dear. But, yeah. Oh, pickled onions. Oh, I used to dread pickled onions because the house used to stink to high heaven. And then, then mum, as I say dad, dad grew potatoes. So we had quite a big landing at home and on that landing we had a packing case and a tea chest and usually the packing case had the potatoes in so mum would lay layers of potatoes and then a layer of paper of some sort and then another layer of potatoes. So they saw us through the winter. And the tea chest would have apples stored in the same. And then in the coal house we’d got sacks of turnips. And then of course all the jam, which was mostly damson. Oh dear. And do you know you hardly see damsons in Yorkshire at all. It’s a real treat now for me to have damson jam. And it’s, I used to think I’ll turn into damson. And the thing was that the jam, she left, she left the stones in because I think that’s where the pectin is isn’t it and helps to make the jam? And we just used to spread that on the bread. They would be doorsteps. My mum was hopeless at cutting because of course there wasn’t sliced bread. She was hopeless. You know. It would go up and down. She couldn’t cut a straight slice of bread and of course they were ever so thick and it would be a scraping of, well, I don’t, I don’t know. Would it be butter? Possibly. Anyway, a scraping of something and then of course you stuck your damson jam with, with the, with the with stones and you’d have this open butty you know. And of course if, if we were outside because we played a lot outside in the woods and, and up on the moors and such like. We’d disappear for the whole day. And we’d set off with jam butties, and a camp coffee bottle of water and we knew where there was a spring on the way up to the moors in the wood. And we’d, we’d because by the time we’d climbed up the hill we’d drunk the water, the bottle of water so we refilled it there. So of course if we were outside you know with the damson jam it was just a case of we’d spit [laughs] there was probably a forest of damson trees somewhere in those woods. Oh dear.
PL: And was it sweet, Dinah?
DS: Oh yeah.
PL: Did you put sugar in it?
DS: We weren’t used to sugar, you see so I suppose, you know it would be alright because it was what you were used to because I mean the rations were, were very sparce. A piece of cheese that you would have nowadays with your crackers after a meal would be for a family for a week. Oh, and then of course there were the baths. Well, you were limited to how much water. Did you know that? You could only have, you know I can’t remember how much it was. It was probably three inches or something so of course once a week in the bath. So I was an only child. Very precious because my parents were elderly parents so I was a long awaited precious child. So I went in the bath first, and then mum went in and poor old dad had to go in last. You know, so [laughs] every, I mean everything when you think about it really everything.
PL: And was that a tin bath in front of the fire?
DS: No. No. No. At Darley Dale we had, we had a bathroom. We’d got electricity. The rest of the people on our avenue were, had still got gas mantles. But we had electricity and we had a proper bathroom. It was, it was a newly built house in 1939. So we were very fortunate. That was a beautiful spot. It belonged to the Water Board. It was a tied house and as I say it had, we’d a garden on three sides of it. And when my father reached sixty five he was literally, I feel quite angry about it really because it wouldn’t happen now but he was literally turned out the day after he was sixty five and had to be rehoused by the council because, you know they were homeless. And, and it was August. His birthday was August and so of course there was all the planting. You know most of the vegetables that he’d planted he had to leave behind. Went into a flat with no garden. It broke his heart. Absolutely broke his heart. But that’s another story.
PL: So, so what about the sort of things that you learned at school during the war?
DS: A for apple. B for bat. C for cat. I can do it all because we had it, this frieze around the Infant’s classroom and we used to chant it every day. And I can still do it. I think I could probably get all the way through it. And of course we chanted tables. And we’d slates because there wasn’t any paper. So we wrote on slates. And we had those little sort of shells. Pearly shells to count with. Counters. And in the Infants we had, because of course most of the men were at war so they were mostly female teachers and we had the headmistress, headmaster’s wife, Mrs Bartram for our teacher. And she was, she was rather a sharp lady. And of course we didn’t have any sweets and I started school when I was four and I suppose I must have thought these shells were sweets because I put one in my mouth and swallowed one and she was absolutely furious. And I, I spent the rest of the day standing on a chair. Yeah. She slapped my legs. Slapped the back of my legs and I stood on a chair for the rest of the day. I was in serious trouble. But you know the toilets at the school, it’s still there I don’t think they’ll be the same toilets but they were outside and we, we really did seem to have very severe winters. And the toilets were frozen solid. And I just, I don’t know how we managed because we hadn’t got potties or anything like so we must have had very crossed legs and crossed eyes probably most of the time, because they were, they were literally were frozen solid. And we had a big open fire in the Infant’s. I don’t know what happened in the Junior bit. I can’t remember what the heating was in there. But I can remember moving up from the Infants into the Juniors which there was the Infant’s school which was two classrooms and then there was caretaker’s house in between and then there was the Junior School next to it. At the time the playing field was turned into a big allotment and that’s what the boys had to do. The boys had to work on the allotment. You know to provide — oh, and that was another thing. All grass verges on the side of roads. I don’t, I can’t remember any roundabouts but any spare grass or ground was dug up and planted with potatoes. And that was another thing. Down in the bottom the A6 runs through the middle of Darley Dale and we, our house was up the hill but down in the bottom there was a great big concrete block. I’ve been thinking. I’ve been talking about this just lately. There was this great big concrete block and because everybody had to, had to do what they could for the war if the enemy happened to come along the road we were supposed push this big concrete block in to the middle of the road to prevent the enemy [laughs] I mean you couldn’t. You couldn’t do it with a great big, you know modern digger I don’t think. I suppose it was all the psychology of it, wasn’t it? You know, that you’ve got to keep people’s spirits up and they all had to feel that they were contributing and defending the country and what have you. But what with spotting the enemy aircraft and then pushing concrete blocks in to the middle of the road.
PL: So did you have the sort of Home Guard in Darley Dale?
DS: I can’t remember them. I can’t remember them. But I can remember the blackout. You know. We all had blackout. Sort of very dark curtains, and if you were and we had the light bulbs hardly gave any light out at all and we’d sort of Bakelite type shades around them. You know, again and they were that sort of shape so that the light was just immediately below.
PL: Like a bell
DS: So, you know, it wasn’t defused at all. I mean there weren’t streetlights. Everywhere was pitch dark because mum and I we used to go and stand and, say we live next to the field and the bluebell wood and it was a beautiful area. Mum and I used to go and stand out at night and look at the stars and they were enormous because there was no, you know no other light to distract you or whatever, it was. Yeah. Mum loved looking at the stars.
PL: So did you have any sort of shelter at home or —
DS: No. But the people who lived lower down they’d got an air raid shelter. And of course as kids we just used to, well it was always full of water so I think, and we hadn’t got wellingtons so I think if any people had to go in there they would have probably have drowned rather than have been bombed or whatever. But no. And as I say later in the war they built Firth Derrions, a big steelworks in the valley obviously away from Sheffield and there there were big hammers going all night and you used to feel the movement. Lying in bed I could feel the movement before I heard the hammer go, you know. It’s still there is Firth Derrions but the hammers are long gone. And the railway line is, it was the main London to Midland Railway line and a bit further Rowsley was one of the biggest sidings in the country so we were very used to hearing steam engines. And as children, this would be after the war we used to run down the hill on a Friday night, quarter to eight to watch the diesel go past. It would be the opposite now wouldn’t it? You’d run to watch the steam engine wouldn’t you? But yeah, the diesel. So all the children, my friend Betty she lived at the railway crossing. There was a crossing by their house. It was called Nannygoat Crossing. So my best friend was Betty Taylor from Nannygoat Crossing. And at the back of, at the end of their garden was this big fence along the railway line. It was lined up you know just like birds ready to take off I think for the Autumn. We were all lined up waiting for the diesel to come past.
PL: So what about transport? Did you? Buses?
DS: Only the doctor had a car. Nobody had a car. We walked. Everybody walked everywhere you know. I think that’s why our generation are really long livers and fit. The same, you know it’s, we lived up the hill and I used to set off for school, mind this was after the war but I used to set off to school. I went, I managed to pass my scholarship so went to Grammar School in Matlock and had to catch the bus. And I set off from home and I could see the bus leaving Rowsley coming down and I used to run like mad and fly down the hill pretty well to catch the bus. But we walked to school and in fact when I, when I first started at, it was Church Town School. The primary school. Infants and Juniors. It was, it was about, it’s about three miles away I think. Would it be as far as that? No. Perhaps no. Perhaps not as far as that but we didn’t have, there weren’t dinners and so we had to come home for dinner. And I used to dawdle something awful so mum used to meet me on the way with a butty and turn me around send me back again. And then my mum and another friend’s mum started a campaign and eventually managed to get school dinners so that we didn’t have to. I mean I started school at four. You know. There was this small child walking. Doing this there and back. You know. Sort of four. Four times. Yeah.
PL: So how far was it?
DS: What would it be? [pause] It seemed a long way to a little one
PL: For little legs. Yeah.
DS: Yeah. And the thing was, I mean you can’t, I’d be horrified if I thought my grandchildren were doing this now, but you used to walk through the woods by myself. And we went to chapel and that was, that was quite a distance away as well and dad and I went to service on a Sunday morning and then I went to Sunday school on Sunday afternoon and again walked it. And, and of course we had Sunday best. And I can remember I had this pink coat and a bonnet. I hated that bonnet. It was a sort of a pale dusty pink. I can see it now that I only wore on Sunday for church or chapel. We called it chapel then and that was the Methodist church. And I came home through the woods one day and, and found this poor creature which I carefully put inside my coat and brought all the way home for mummy and daddy to make it better. And it happened to be a dead rat and apparently it was creeping with fleas, and there I was with this in the, in my Sunday best pink coat. Wrapped up in the pink coat. I don’t know what happened to this poor, oh I think I said to them would they make poor bunny better? I thought it was, I must have thought it was a rabbit or something. A dead rat. Oh, that was another thing you see talking about food. We foraged so of course we had rabbit and wood pigeon. I can remember mum opening up these wood pigeon on, on the draining board in the kitchen and they were stuffed full of grain. There was hardly any meat on at all but you know that was better than nothing. And our next door neighbour was a retired policemen. He had a shot gun licence and he used to go to Chatsworth to help cull the deer and so of course he came back being paid with a lump of venison. And so of course he brought you know gave, gave mum a bit. She was a good cook. And so we actually ate venison during the war. I don’t like game. I would never, never choose to eat venison now. And hare. No. They smell too much. No. But you know that, that supplemented our, our food. We lived off the land really. And as kids I mean we just we knew which plants you could eat. I mean this time of year, April with the hawthorn just coming out we would pick off the new, the buds. The leaf buds. We’d call that bread and butter. We would eat those. And rabbit’s meat. That’s sorrel. We’d call that rabbit’s meat. And we would we would pull the, the stamens out of clover and suck the nectar out of the end of [pause] We knew all those sorts of things, you know. We knew which things we mustn’t eat. I suppose we were hungry. We were all thin. There weren’t any fat children at school.
PL: So what about when the war came to an end? What happened in the dale?
DS: I remember that morning. Dad didn’t go to work, and we walked down to the main part of Darley Dale. We lived at Northwood at one end of Darley Dale and we walked to where the main part where the shops and things were and everybody seemed to be out. And I can remember some bunting. I don’t suppose it was the day that they declared war over but certainly a few days afterwards, bunting and it was so funny because obviously odd bits of old clothes that people had because I remember seeing something and I felt sure it was somebody’s old bloomers, you know that they’d cut into triangles and hung across the road. Darley Dale was lined with [pause] I think they were plane trees. Lined. No, they weren’t. They were lime trees. There was an avenue of lime trees and this bunting was strung across between, between the lime trees because, oh in Darley Dale there was something called the Whitworth Institute. Joseph Whitworth, the engineer. Well, it was his wife had presented this Institute to the people of Darley Dale and during the war there were, there were soldiers. Injured soldiers were recuperating there and they used to come to our, our chapel which was next door and I can remember on a Sunday night occasionally going to church on a Sunday night and it was packed with all these soldiers singing. I can, I can hear them now. You know. The soldiers singing. Singing the hymns. But, and then at school we all received something signed by King George the Sixth celebrating the end of the war and what have you. I think I’ve probably still got that somewhere because I used to have that hung up in my bedroom. I thought that was wonderful. A message from the King.
PL: And then was there a party or —
DS: No. I can. No. No. No. Because we hadn’t got food, you know. We, we, I mean rationing when on well into the 50s didn’t it? People hadn’t got food to spare really but certainly at Firth Derrions, in their works canteen I can remember a big sing song and a sort of concert and I suppose there would be some food but I don’t, I don’t seem to [pause] I can remember the first time I had an ice cream. I’d never seen ice cream before. And of course fruit. I’d never seen a banana or anything like that. I’ve never like bananas. I was, I was given this banana as a, you know as a very special treat and I didn’t like it at all. I thought it was slimy and horrible and as soon as the person who gave it me went out the room I threw it on the fire back. A precious banana and I threw it away. If, if you, if you had got a health problem, a child with a health problem during the war you were granted extra rations or fruit and I can remember being given an orange by somebody who, who it was a neighbour whose child was a poorly child and they actually gave me an orange. Whether it was my birthday but they gave me an orange. And I thought that was, that was lovely but I didn’t like the banana [pause] And I still don’t like bananas. But we, we acquired, I don’t know where it came from but we acquired a Union Jack and that was hung out of the window, I remember. And of course all the, all the steam engines in the bottom sounded off their whistles. You know, if I remember it was very, very noisy and everybody seemed to be out but again you see I was only, I was only eight wasn’t I? So —
PL: And do you remember dads and brothers and sons coming back to the dale?
DS: Yes. I can remember Pat’s dad coming back. He’d been, he’d been in the Coldstream Guards and he came back in, in his uniform and we thought that was, that was absolutely wonderful and the fact that he was a guard. A guardsman. And then I, I also remember one coming back who’d been a prisoner of, a Japanese prisoner of war and you know he was a very poorly man. Yeah.
DS: And I can remember too I’d got, I’d got an older cousin and I used to get her cast offs and one of the cast offs was a dress made from parachute silk. It was beautiful and I can remember spinning around and, you know and the skirt came flared out like that. Oh, I absolutely loved that parachute, parachute silk dress. But another, another that I got was a wool dress. It was sort of moss green. It was a foul colour anyway and it, and it was wool and wartime wool was very itchy and scratchy and very uncomfortable and I hated this dress. But you had to wear what, you know, what you’d got. You didn’t have any choice in buying things because there were clothing coupons, and the shops didn’t have actual choices anyway. But there was, as I say we lived up the hill and there was the basics and then there was the London to Midland Railway Line and then there was the Derwent River. And my dad had said I hadn’t to go near the river. It was dangerous. So, of course what did I do? Went with my friend Betty Taylor from Nannygoat Crossing and Janet who lived further down the road. We crossed the A6 although there wasn’t a lot of traffic then. We crossed the railway and went along by the river and we found a boat tied up. So we were trying to pull this boat in and I fell in and I can remember coming up under the boat. Obviously opened my eyes and I managed to see roots of the tree that the boat was tied to in the water and grabbed hold of them and pulled myself out. Now, I can’t remember whether it was Betty or Janet but one of them ran away and left me and the other one stayed behind and I had to, I hauled myself out the river, back across the railway lane, back across the A6, up the hill home. And when I got home dripping wet and frightened out of my wits my father gave me a real good hiding. Mum thought he was going to kill me. But something good came out of it because it shrank this awful green wool dress and I was never able to wear that again. So you see it what wasn’t at all bad was it?
PL: And how old were you then?
DS: Six or seven I think. But I’m still frightened of water. I mean I can swim. I taught PE and of course you know that was swimming. You had to, you had, at college you had to have a pretty high standard but I still hate water. I’m still frightened of water. But yeah, I did get a walloping and mum’s, mum because I was dad’s girl and mum always said dad was so, you know shocked that I might have died that that was why they gave me a walloping. But you see —
PL: So was the walloping a smack or —
DS: Oh, no. It was the strap. His leather strap. His leather belt. Yes. And it didn’t do me any harm did it? [laughs]
PL: Well, Dinah it’s been so interesting hearing your account. Thank you so much for your interview. It’s really really been fascinating.
DS: Really?
PL: Yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely.
DS: With my flat Derbyshire voice.
PL: And all your clocks.
DS: And all my clocks. Yeah.
PL: So I’d just like to thank you again and say that was fascinating.
DS: Has it, has it, has it really been worth your while?
PL: Absolutely. Definitely. Without a doubt. Thank you so much.
DS: Yeah. Well, it’s been a pleasure talking to you.



Pam Locker, “Interview with Dinah Smith,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 15, 2024,

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